Well, the year is ending, and I’ve actually watched a large amount of anime shows ending this year (over 60), so here is my list of the top 13 shows which ended in 2013. The shows and their positions are factored by how much I enjoyed these shows and how good (artistically, thematically) I think the shows are. Only full shows had been considered, no OVAs or movies of any sort. The names link to the show’s description and information on My Anime List (MAL).
13. Aku no Hana (Flowers of Evil)
This show is all about atmosphere. An oppressive atmosphere of self-inflicted fear, of being closed in, that one can’t escape. Not much actually happens in the show, but the constant fear of what is about to happen, of what is going to strike our protagonist drives both him and us as we watch the show. It’s hardly a “fun watch”, with each episode weighing you down until you seek respite elsewhere. Its masterful control of psychological horror and how well it conveys Kasuga’s life and the feeling of the town in which he lives make this show one that cannot be ignored, however.
It seems that had there been a second season a lot more would actually occur, and all that happened in this season was merely a precursor, but due to exceedingly poor sales, that is unlikely to happen. The rotoscoping is interesting, but believe it or not, the show I believe is closest to Aku no Hana is K-On! due to its absolute reliance on atmosphere over plot or character development.
12. Maouyu Maou Yuusha (Maoyu, Hero and Demon King)
On the one hand, this appears to be a fantasy story, where each character is so much of archetype they don’t even have names, but are called by their roles, but this is actually a science-fiction story, about someone from an advanced culture helping a less-advanced one. This show’s premise had me from the get-go, where the hero meets the demon king who wishes to form an alliance rather than fight, and then I had my mind blown by them actually bringing up the concept that the rich wish for war to continue to remain in power and because the alternative is mass starvation.
So yeah, the show has the ideas to get me involved and actually managed to surprise me, but it also had me liking the cast, liking the easy chemistry between the two mains, and it also had the single most memorable moment in anime I’ve watched this past year – I think the show is worth it for the sake of that moment alone, but it’d have also been worthwhile without it.
I was actually less sure about this show, but it ended up making it in, because I have a hard time justifying it not being included. This show is a cyberpunk sci-fi thriller, and that alone is worthy of some mention. A serious treatment of sci-fi in anime isn’t something we get much of, and this show actually had a couple of concepts it dealt with in-depth, chief amongst them being the nature of human choice and its importance to human nature and society, while showing us a utopia/dystopia (many dystopias are presented as if they are utopias, after all) which is quite similar to the type you can see in Minority Report.
The show brings up a variety of ideas, and ties them all together in a bundle of well-directed, well-acted, thriller with a veneer of sophistication and “mature, dark” scenes. I’m not sure what it needed to be “great”, but it was very good, and that’s good enough – its position on this list is actually less sure than that of the shows appearing before it on the list.
10. Fairy Tail
This show ended in 2013, and I’ve watched it in its entirety in 2013, so I think it counts. I actually like shounens, and I like determinators, who always keep going forward no matter what happens. To me, Fairy Tail is the most mature and emotionally “complete” long-running shounen show, and aside from not having things drag along too much, we actually get to experience emotional moments on a regular basis that actually hit the mark for me. I actually appreciate the humor, I like the cast, and I find the action sequences to be well-made, with the show sporting one of the better OSTs, one good enough that I’ve listened to it for numerous hours on my portable player.
Yes, this is definitely a show that I enjoy a lot, and if you’ve always been fond of shows such as Bleach or Naruto, and look to see them done “better” (less dark, singular hero of Bleach, less fillers of Naruto), then you might want to give Fairy Tail a whirl. It’s been recently announced that the show will resume in April, in a new season, which will be filler-free!
9. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S (A Certain Scientific Railgun 2nd season)
This is the best season in the Index-verse thus far, which might not be saying much, considering it’s a “popcorn”-show – light snack that makes you feel good but isn’t with much substance, right? Well, Railgun had always been the better franchise, where the various characters all feel important, no matter how powerful they are compared to one another (reminds one of The Scooby Gang in Buffy). This season had shown us that viewing the same material but from a new perspective can be a fresh experience, while it had tied the show’s themes together.
Of course, that the show had some of the best fights and action sequences of this past year, and episodes which felt like outtakes from movies hadn’t hurt either. This show has a likeable cast, emotional moments, a message that it stays true to, and solid acting. While it may be a “popcorn show”, it can hold its head high as the best, and most enjoyable action show I’ve watched this past year.
8. The World God Only Knows 3rd Season: Goddesses (Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai: Megami-hen)
Watching the first two seasons of the show, I was genuinely surprised by how much fun I had, given the premise – boy has to make girls fall in love with him in order to drive evil ghosts away from them, but it was fun, and it was funny. The third season had really mixed things up, finally actions had consequences, and things weren’t reset after a successful conquest. Keima had to face the fact that his actions hurt people, and that his actions hurt him, and no matter what he’s going to do, someone will have to get hurt. It was still funny, it was still charming, but we’ve got a big bucket of drama and feels on top, enriching the show even further.
Also, this show had me participating in “Best girl” wars, which shows you how involved I’ve been, which is a good sign.
7. Uchouten Kazoku (The Eccentric Family)
A proper drama, of the sort that for some reason or another isn’t too common in anime. A family-drama at that, with an interesting and quirky cast. It’s a show that I suggest letting it wash over you, with the fairy-tale visuals and motifs that appear throughout the show. In the end, it’s a small show revolving around a singular event, the disappearance of the father, and how his children who take after him deal with their world. And yes, they’re shape-shifting raccoon living alongside humans and tengu who soar the skies. The world and characters feel real in the sense that they exist apart from us, and the show doesn’t go out of its way to explain everything to us; in fact, there are a couple of events mentioned throughout the show that never receive further elaboration – we’re just guests to this world.
While the show is a very good and understated drama story, and will join my recommendation list along shows such as Planetes, and I could certainly relate to the characters, something stopped me from fully immersing myself in the show, which is why it’s in 7th spot and no higher (though that’s quite high already). Should you watch it? Sure, if you’re looking for something without much action, but which is well-made, well-told, and showcases a deft directorial hand.
6. Gin no Saji (Silver Spoon) 1st Season
I was surprised how much I liked this show, but I liked it a whole lot. A slice of life about a city-boy going to an agricultural school in rural Japan, what could be interesting, right? Well, the characters oozed charm, we had the cutest pig we’ve seen in media since 1995’s Babe. That’s only a small part of it though, like all good slice of life shows, the characters and the issues they had dealt with felt real – who am I? Who am I trying for, whose dreams am I following? This was a charming show full of real characters, facing real issues and doubts that people of all ages face as they enter adulthood or flail in the adult world. We’ve seen a varied cast of characters, each with their own lives and dreams, who as a whole explore the issue from various angles.
While the gags had me laughing, I can see not everyone appreciating them. The non-romance romance felt real, and my only two real issues with the show is that they cut some emotional moments too quickly to move to jokes, and that like it or not, it doesn’t feel like a complete story – thankfully, we have the second season starting next week or so. And yet, it’s not enough to keep this show from the lofty 6th spot.
5. Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai. (Oreimo, My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!) 2nd season
After a slightly rocky start, the show got into full-swing, and felt like the 1st season all over again. It’s really quite simple, if you liked the first season, I think you’d have liked the second season, and vice versa. This show had me emotionally invested. I smiled at the characters’ antics, at Kyousuke’s wry thoughts, about the characters’ easy manner with one another. I wanted Kuroneko to win and cheered for her, and felt both her sadness and my own when her “ship” went down in flames, and even felt somewhat disappointed in the show when it didn’t work out for her.
Every single week, when the episode ended, I was surprised that it was already over and felt like crying “Noooo! Where’s my next episode?!” which going alongside me smiling, laughing, and crying, as a testament to the show’s greatness – it made me care. If anything about this show made me sad, it’s that looking through the LNs to see where we are in comparison, I realized the show had enough material for another season, which they simply cut out. I’d have loved another season with the cast.
No real opinion about the finale, I’ve known it was coming, and it had great and bad moments, but it still was more time with the lovely cast.
A slice of life which truly feels like a slice of life – nothing fake, nothing manufactured, but as if someone had truly curved off a piece of real people’s daily lives and had shown it to us. Also a show not afraid to deal with people who are entering the worlds of adulthood and the fears and uncertainties they face. Also, a comedy that arises from the characters’ personalities and interactions rather than merely relying on gags and references. Finally, and certainly not least, the best and most mature treatment of cross-dressing to ever appear in anime (that I’ve watched), which is fueled by the above two points – feels real, and everything feels true to the characters. I really feel like this is the show the anime-culture needed, but couldn’t appreciate.
I loved this show – I loved watching it for its boundless energy and vibrancy, in its pacing, in its characters’ personalities, in its colours. I loved thinking about this show, and I loved discussing this show. This is the best theme-driven show I’ve watched in a long while, and it was certainly a brave show – it knew where it wanted to go, it knew what it wanted to say, and it didn’t care about the nay-sayers, going as far as to make fun of them within the show. The main character was more of a plot-device, but considering this wasn’t a character-driven show, it was refreshing for a show to embrace its character nature rather than try to obfuscate it, and rather used the character in order to topple genre-conventions, or espouse ideas on human worth, horizontal societies, the nature of online interactions, or trusting humans to be good left, right, and center. That went along with a great villain who also embraced his role as a villain, and wasn’t only a villain, but acted as one within the conventions.
This isn’t a show about everything, but it’s certainly a show about a lot, which yet handles most issues deftly. This is a show that could be watched on so many levels, that we’re just getting started. It had more than earned the title of the third show on this list, and is likely to be one of the shows I return to fondly in future years.
2. Shin Sekai Yori (From the New World)
A mature sci-fi story, spanning over 30 years, it’s really unsurprising that this show is based off of a novel. The scope of the story, and the world-building are vast. The world is the main focus of the show, and we get glimpses of it, of the past, and of the generational war for survival that the humans engage in. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale, many years after the fact, and the small touches of horror do a lot to add to the atmosphere of the show. The show deals quite heavily with the nature of humanity, of concepts of utilitarianism and necessity, of sacrificing – races, children, emotions, or even feelings, for the sake of mere survival. Finally, if you let it, this show makes you think, which is the goal of science-fiction, and as such, it stands as a triumph.
This show has issues, don’t get me wrong, especially about how the lack of focus on the characters and their characterization always keep us at arm’s length from them, and it’s not a show you can truly relate to on an emotional level (though it had one of the most nuanced antagonists in an anime), for the most part, but the fact a show such as this even exists is a testament to what anime can do, and to what anime is sometimes even brave enough to carry out. I think in years to come, this might be one of the most oft-recommended or oft-mentioned shows for me, and it is probably in that regard the most important show to end in 2013, but the show that earned the first spot was just more relatable, more enjoyable.
1. Kyousogiga (Capital Craze)
Kyousougiga is something special, it is an experience. Kyousogiga weaves family drama, mythological overtones and undertones, and a stunningly powerful show structure together. We have worlds colliding, we have immortals, the creation of the world, the death of the universe, we tie in Greek Mythology, and we do all these things on a scale that isn’t merely epic, but mythic. And yet, for all the grandness of the show, for all of its boundless energy, and bright colours, and world-bending hijinks (for all of whom Koto is the avatar of change), this is at its core a small, and very personal story, of one family, of a few siblings, who are left behind and are aching for their parents’ return, and how the centuries of waiting transform them.
The characters are all just so human, with sibling rivalry, parent envy, resentment. It’s amazing how this show ties its format to its messages and themes. Family is a cycle you can never break out of, meeting your parents as an adult is something that always brings you back to your childhood, and often leads to disappointments where it doesn’t. The way the story and direction handled revealing the present by showing us the past, or made us understand the past by showing us the present was nothing short of spectacular. I could understand and appreciate the characters, and the themes, and the conflicts. The scale was at the same time all-encompassing and not just personal, but private, as if something precious had been shared with me.
Uchouten Kazoku with all of its antics is the more well-grounded, understated sibling of Kyousogiga, but this one just blew me away.
Why shows ending in 2013? Because this is when I made the list, and on one hand shows that are still running might yet falter or pick up, and if we do this yearly as the year ends then shows straddling two years will never get a chance to get mentioned.
Notable absentees: These are shows which might have made the list, but I hadn’t watched them and thus hadn’t listed them: Yamato 2199, Monogatari 2nd season (I am waiting for the BDs), White Album 2 (7 episodes in), JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure (5 episodes in), and Zetsuen no Tempest. I only have so much time :<
Anything you find egregiously missing, or disagree with? Looking at the list, there’re probably shows for everyone to like, and for everyone to dislike strongly here, I guess.
P.S. I find it unsurprising I found the top 4 shows this year to have been “brave” in some way, but also what drives them. Genshiken Nidaime is character/situation-driven, Gatchaman Crowds is theme-driven, Shin Sekai Yori is setting-driven, and Kyousougiga is character-driven. None of them are what I’d call “plot-driven”.